How many times have you said to yourself, “boy I wish I thought of that.” We live in the most unprecedented entrepreneurial times. Courses and certificates in entrepreneurship are available at almost every academic and education institution including colleges with liberal arts majors. Small business is proven to drive the economy in recession and technology and the Internet have made it easier than ever to do your own thing for income, fun, or both. We all want to be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

CVS Pharmacy allowed a customer to change the address on my account and then they filled the customer’s prescription and billed my insurance company. I had no idea because I don’t receive an explanation of benefits for my prescriptions and I naively thought HIPAA and other privacy laws and standards of practice protected my personal information. Ironically, the pharmacist could not tell me what prescriptions were on my account because of her obligation to the privacy of the customer who they added to my account. So they (CVS and their pharmacy staff) compromised my privacy and I have no way of resolving the issue because privacy rules that were broken in this case are now back in effect and working against me.

As marketers, we hold ourselves and one another to the highest ethical standards when it comes to our customer’s personal information and account history. Over the years, various forms of legislation have been introduced to address those individuals who ignore such industry standards and admittedly, our jobs become a bit harder. Remember the days when SPAM became more than processed meat? It became an everyday word and white and black lists entered our world. We only send what customers want us to.

Privacy issues will continue to be debated as the pendulum swings between generations. The world is changing and the younger generations don’t have the same privacy concerns of the past. They often give away personal information easily and disregard their privacy not understanding how they can be affected for a lifetime. In many respects, it’s easier to market to this target audience because we know so much more about them. They told the public and us. Marketers once argued that grocery stores shouldn’t collect information about consumer purchases that were used to generate coupons for future purchases. Generally, if the information makes our life easier, we overlook and possibly welcome the intrusion.

Pharmacies have no choice but to protect customer’s privacy. We expect it. In today’s healthcare environment, there’s plenty of room in the industry for pharmacies to differentiate themselves on privacy protection, product selection, price and customer services. Other industries may not have the same opportunity but they can certainly strike a balance in serving customers. I’m interested to see the future role of privacy given technological advancements and I’m even more curious to see how I prove my identity to CVS and how I’m impacted by this serious breach.

Are privacy laws and standards making your job easier or harder? Weigh in.